How TMZ Changed the NFL

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Baltimore Ravens RB Ray Rice and his fiancée (now wife) Janay Palmer.

The incident between Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice and his fiancée, Janay Palmer, was ugly when it happened. And what happened next was just confusing. They got married. They held an awkward press conference. Palmer apologized for her role in the incident. They met with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. And eventually, Rice was suspended from the league for two games.

It all led me to one conclusion: there must be more to the story. Maybe we’d never know what it was. Maybe we didn’t need to know. Maybe it was none of our business.

Then, TMZ released the video. And that’s when I got angry.

Not that it would have made it better (much less acceptable), but I guess I expected to see Palmer attacking Rice and him defending himself. Maybe that’s what I wanted to believe. At least in part, it’s what I feel I was led to believe. And consequently, that’s exactly what some of Rice’s teammates have said.

I won’t post the video from the elevator in the Atlantic City casino, because I don’t want to see it again (and you probably don’t either). But, you know where to find it. There was obviously some kind of disagreement. Followed by an altercation. Followed by Palmer hitting the floor unconscious.

Rightly so, the release of the video sent social media into a frenzy. It wasn’t long before fans, journalists, even former and current players were calling foul. And not just calling it…screaming it.

By mid-afternoon, the Ravens had released Ray Rice and the NFL followed with an indefinite suspension. Both claimed they hadn’t seen the disturbing video until that morning.

What does it say that Ray Rice wasn’t blackballed until we saw video evidence of the brutal assault on his then fiancée? Among other things, that people are innocent until proven guilty. That it’s a tough area to prosecute by nature. That we want to give people (and especially famous people) the benefit of the doubt. And that sometimes, we believe what we want to believe.

As a result of the incident, the NFL put in place a new policy with a mandatory six-game suspension for players who commit acts of domestic violence and a lifetime ban for the second offense.

But what we’ve learned more than anything, is that the fans, the media, and the players have influence. That by speaking up, they can help draw the line on acceptable boundaries. And that on this issue, those lines are very clear.

Whether it’s the first time or not, any time a player puts his hands on a woman…should be the last time he steps foot on an NFL field.

Zero excuses. Zero apologies. Zero tolerance.

XO

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